Compassionate Theory of Everything, My Experiences

Armpits of America

Adams Street House

There are good reasons that we associate things, even if we’re often wrong about how they relate.

Being sweaty isn’t the same as having BO. People just think the two have to go together.

Funky-smelling bacteria grow in warm areas with water. Armpits are half-sealed pockets of skin that sweat while being cut off from the flow of air. So they stay warm and damp. Sweat doesn’t smell – but it is wet. Armpits stay sweaty and warm, so they’re a great environment for stinky bacteria to grow. They’re full of benign sweat. And also stinky bacteria.

Being poor isn’t the same as being larcenous and quick to violence. A lot of people believe that poor people are what make ghettos dangerous.

I know why people believe that.

When I wanted a piece of gum as a kid, I’d walk down to the corner store. A single piece of Dubble Bubble cost a penny, back when Stegasaurus-sized boomboxes roamed the sidewalk. Every time, I’d leave the house with a penny in the pocket of my shorts. About half the time, I came back with bloody knees instead of gum. Sometimes, they got the penny. Sometimes they got me as I was unwrapping the gum. Even the 11-year-olds around Brookside Park seemed larcenous and prone to violence.

Those two blocks between my house and the corner store have a higher percentage of children living in poverty than 99% of the United States. There was no question about whether those violent kids were also poor.

It isn’t the poverty though, it’s the misery.

Violence grows in areas where people are miserable. Ghettos are neighborhoods full of people who are half-sealed off from jobs and education and role-models. They are culturally cut off from real-life examples of people who make their way through life without beating on each other or selling drugs. Ghettos are cut off from the rest of the economy, but television signals make it through just fine. So ghettos stay full of people who don’t own much, yet believe they’re supposed to.

People without many posessions aren’t necessarily bad people, but they often become miserable when they feel shame for being poor. They do not own the Cadillacs and iPhones that all Americans are supposed to own, so they feel miserable about life. Ghettos stay full of this misery and shame, so they’re a great environment for violence and theft to grow in. They’re full of poor people. And also crime.

A ghetto doesn’t have to be a shithole. It just usually is.

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